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It’s astounding: d&b for new Rocky Horror tour

The musical’s back on this planet, Janet. Orbital’s audio ran it, Janet. With Gareth on duty to plan it, Janet. So dammit, Janet, let’s go view…

Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show returned to the UK stage in December 2015, at the beginning of a major tour scheduled to run through until late 2016. The iconic musical has been given a major refresh, under the direction of Christopher Luscombe. Sound design is by Gareth Owen, continuing his 15-year association with the musical, with the sound system supplied by Orbital Sound. Gareth’s design includes d&b audiotechnik’s new V7P point source array loudspeaker system, making its UK stage debut.

Rocky Horror, for the unitiated, has become a show with an enormous amount of audience participation – including the throwing of rice and toast, and much shouting at the cast at appropriate points (“Slut!” “Asshole!” “Where’s your neck?” etc) – and Luscombe has focused on balancing this with the demands of one-day touring and the tight schedules that go with it. The result is a tight, dynamic production that loses nothing from the original concept, maintaining the cult status and the audience fun.

For Owen, the new tour represented an opportunity to try a different dimension with the V7P system, and put the latest developments in point source technology to the test. He explains:
“Point source has tended to fall by the wayside in recent years, partly due to the impact of line array in terms of improved power and coverage. For some shows, however, it’s not always the ideal solution, and when we heard about d&b audiotechnik’s new V7Ps, it was an obvious decision to give it a try.

Rocky Horror is one of the loudest shows around, and we were able to achieve the same result with just a quarter of the speaker numbers. I can’t remember the last time I was so impressed with a speaker.

Owen specified one V7P aside for the circle, upper levels and the gallery, with a ground stack line array (four V8s per side) for the stalls.

“It sounded just as good in the circle as in the stalls,” he says. “ Set-up was straightforward, and we were able to configure the system to deliver the power and clarity required without any distortion. For a show like this where the load-in and performance are on the same day, point source is a great solution. We just don’t have time to do the amount of rigging and calculation necessary to get the best out of a big line array system. The V7P system fulfills the requirement for fast load-in and set-up, without any compromise in terms of quality.”

The V7Ps are powered by D20 4-channel amplifiers, and the all-d&b PA system includes E6s and E8s for fills and delays, with a complement of ten V-Subs. Stage monitoring and SFX duties are performed by Q7s and E6s. On the radio mic front, Owen used Shure UR4D and UR1M receivers and transmitters.

A relatively new addition to the equipment line-up is the Nemesis CCS-2 computer control switch, which is designed to allow two computer systems to share a keyboard, mouse, monitor and distribution of GPI data and MIDI messages. Over the last two years, Owen and his associate sound designer Russell Godwin worked closely with the Nemesis development team at Orbital inputting into the evolution of the system design and putting the CCS-2 through some rigorous real-world pre-release testing. Owen’s verdict on the production Nemesis CCS-2 is that “it does exactly what we want, and has proved to be very reliable”.

Equipment supply and support is provided throughout the tour by Orbital Sound, with production engineer (and Pro Sound Award winner) Chris Mace at the helm, managing the challenges of the daily touring schedule. Owen adds: “This is what the Orbital Sound team is so good at. Chris pays meticulous attention to detail when putting the system together at the start of a tour, making extensive use of Orbital Sound’s custom-designed RacPac modular racking and GUFF cabling system. It’s a very slick operation as a result.”

In addition to Owen, the full sound team on the tour comprises Olly Steel as associate sound designer, Matt Peploe as head of sound, and Wes McCann as sound number two. The production manager is Simon Gooding.
Rocky Horror takes in Torquay, Bradford and Edinburgh through March and wraps in Aberdeen at His Majesty’s Theatre in mid-September. Catch it while you can: after all, time is fleeting…